Crime never rests and neither does Batman – even on Christmas. Merry Little Batman sees the Caped Crusader forced to leave his son Damian home at Wayne Manor on Christmas Eve after a call from the Justice League. When a Home Alone situation occurs, young Damian must use his ninja skills and stealth abilities to protect the Manor from two burglars, all the while Batman’s greatest enemies are planning something terrible for Gotham City’s holiday festivites.
First thing fans should do to prepare to watch Merry Little Batman is drop any pre-conceived notions of the catalog of Batman characters. This is pre-dominantly a kid’s film and Luke Wilson’s portrayal of Batman/Bruce Wayne is a big, lovable, overprotective galoot. Wilson was terrific in the “Aw, Shucks” dad role on DC’s Stargirl and he brings that same charm as Damian’s father in Merry Little Batman. It’s not dark, broody Batman, and that’s okay. Everything is even explained briefly in flashback showing how Batman humorously cleaned up Gotham, allowing him to settle down and be a happy father. The passage of time also means the super-villains are now old, which provides unexpectedly funny moments when they show up later in the film.
But this isn’t Batman’s story, it’s Damian’s, as portrayed by Yonas Kibreab with the high energy that has become standard in children’s animation characters. Kibread keeps things within reason so the adults don’t tune out and he even excels in some heartfelt moments throughout. Damian’s arc in the story goes to some moving places, providing moral complexity that was not on my bingo card for the film. Don’t worry, though, the movie has plenty of Damian’s trademark attitude and unpredictability from the comic books.
The action sequences are all quite fun, especially Damian’s early battle with the burglars, where he finally gets to unleash his talent after begging his dad for a chance to fight crime. The film never loses sight of its holiday theme with plenty of eye-popping yuletide settings and themes throughout. My only complaint visually is the off-putting character designs. They take a while to get used to and some of which I never did.
Merry Little Batman also feels long in the last act, despite the short 90 minute runtime. The story is surely stretched to make that particular landmark length, with its multiple false endings and a creepy black-and-white sequence during one of Damian’s dark moments. It doesn’t take too much away from this very enjoyable film, but perhaps this might have been better suited as a special rather than stretching it into a film.
The non-traditional soundtrack is a banger though, with punk, hip-hop and other head-nodding holiday tracks that add to the energy and style of the movie. Comic book fans will love the superhero holiday hijinks Merry Little Batman provides and casual viewers will enjoy a refreshing break from the same old formulaic seasonal movies and specials.
Score: 3.5 out of 5